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My family makes fun of me for learning languages, particularly Asian ones. Why?

Since I was a kid, I have been exposed to new languages everyday and I always had a passion for learning languages. I was always good at remembering and learning languages. I always did well in my Portuguese class in elementary school, even though we didn't learn that much and I don't remember much now, but I still retained some knowledge after all these years. I was also one of the best students in my Spanish class in high school and by the third year when we were taking advanced Spanish, I was one of the few that passed, let alone got an A. While a lot of people forget whatever language they learned in high school, I actually surprisingly retained a decent amount of knowledge and I can speak Spanish on a conversational level, but I am not fluent at all. I believe I am a glossophile by nature and I tend to take interest in a lot of things.

2 years ago, I got into kpop and recently I have been starting to learn Korean and Japanese as well as improving my Spanish. I don't know what it is about asian languages that makes me family make fun of me and comment on it all the time, but my sister always says stuff like "you're so obsessed with Asians" when she hears me listening or watching Korean or Japanese stuff and my mom even says it too. They make me feel like I need to be in a psych ward or something. She kind of resents how I didn't learn her native language of Yoruba, yet and I quote "you can speak other people's languages". I think it pisses her off so I think that might be a reason why she always makes fun of me, but I always wonder why my family doesn't have the same reaction when they see me learning Spanish on Duolingo. In fact, my sister is always asking me for help with her homework and my mom likes to lowkey brag about how her daughter knows Spanish so "you should be able to understand what this says". She even asked me if I could talk to the Spanish employees at the local meat market. She was kind of joking but anyways, if I was listening to Shakira or Ricky Martin, they would just think it's cool, and she even speaks some Portuguese she knows too from work all the time and a little Spanish as well. My family has shown quite an aversion to Asian culture in general (I'm not implying they're racist, but they have said some questionable things) and they think it's strange for me to be interested in Asian languages. She found my notebook one day after I practiced Korean and she asked if I was learning Chinese again (Another thing. They think all Asian languages are Chinese or Japanese).

I just wonder why they think learning Japanese or Korean or Chinese is weird but not Portuguese or Spanish or French? My sister made fun of me for writing Chinese characters once (even though our other sister literally took Chinese in middle school and they thought it was cool) and my mom will always say in front of everyone about how I love Asian culture as if I'm some foreign geek or bookworm. Then she will turn around and say to other people how smart I am and how good I am at languages. It just hurts that they treat it like I'm hiding something or something bad.

May 19, 2017



Monolinguals are often jealous of multilinguals, for the same reasons that some people are jealous of the bright. They want something they don't have, and resent those who do have it. This often-unrecognised envy makes them feel insecure, this becomes anger, and is then in turn expressed as hostility or ridicule.

This has happened to people who enjoy academic pursuits since we first banged rocks together: People naturally fear what they don't understand, and if they don't understand your desire to learn about Asian culture or language then this fear will express itself in the aforementioned ways.


Yes... instead of their feelings leading to hurting multilinguals, they need to divert it into action! If they could succeed in learning another language, best solution.


jealous of the bright

I don't agree with "jealous of the bright", I do agree with the rest. Rather than jealousy, it makes people feel insecure (as you mentioned) and inadequate / incompetent / unqualified. Even suggesting that somebody is of "average intelligence" tends to make them feel insecure, angry and inadequate, with them rejecting the notion that they're of "average intelligence". Pretty much "everybody" thinks their intelligence is above average (Dunning–Kruger effect), therefore there's little jealousy when it comes to intelligence as people simply tend to believe they're as intelligent or more intelligent.

I often see people who think an intelligent person is stupid because they don't understand something he says, therefore assuming the smart person is stupid or wrong (or simply hate the smart person). I've especially noticed this trend when it comes to statisticians (example from my experience). The number of complaints statisticians get from people who simply don't understand statistics, unbelievable... When people don't understand an intelligent person they'll just think he's wrong / stupid or simply hate him, but rarely they're jealous, they "always" think they're also capable of doing the same thing "if they want to" (which is sometimes true as you can't specialize yourself in everything, but it's also often untrue).

Just to be extra clear, my reply is focused on intelligence (being bright, as I quoted) rather than knowledge (learning a language).


Never be ashamed of your passion for other cultures and languages.

This happens to me too somtimes. Most people tend to see languages like German/French as serious and dismiss other languages, especially distant ones, like Chinese. My mother uses questionable words to speak about "chinocadas" too... sigh

Once I was practicing German and 中文 and a (bilingual!) guy told me "It's very good that you're learning German, but why would you learn Chinese? That doesn't make any sense."

You can change their cultural prejudices by showing them how wonderful that culture is, and telling them that you just love learning languages and that they should respect that.

Most people may not understand your passion, but someday you may bump into another asiaphile and you'll feel understood :)


EXACTLY! ❤❤❤? Some of them just think of Asians as greedy Chinese people that charge you too much for hot sauce. I'm serious! I think one of my family friends said it best: "Chinese is becoming a much more popular language. If you go to China, they will love you!


Prejudices and/or failures to realize the inherent value in all languages would be my go-to guesses usually. Imagine the looks I get sometimes when I talk about Esperanto.


I'm just curious. Why is Esperanto so popular? If I told them I was learning that--the reaction I would be hilarious.


Varying reasons probably. Some like the simplicity and regularity. Esperanto is an easy choice if one has little experience in learning languages. Those of us, who are interested in how languages are structured or how they behave or just conlangs in general, Esperanto is also the logical first step as it is the largest one.


Skipping the obvious "don't be ashamed to be yourself, learning is good, they're just jealous" kid show stock response, it sounds like a mix of two factors. Understandable ignorance and weeaboo akin concerns.

First of the ignorance. Pretty much every western born person can't tell different Asian languages apart because they wouldn't have had a reason or desire to learn. It doesn't help that almost all Japanese characters are Chinese so natives can have the same issue. You will also have this flaw but for other languages. There's far too many for anyone to separate them all.

As for the weeaboo akin concerns. There are a lot of people who go beyond a healthy interest in languages and culture. This typically happens to Japan (so I will use it for examples) but Korea's gaining traction too. They are straight up obsessed to the point that their identity is consumed by their twisted interpretation of Japan (they likely got from anime/manga) and they treat Japan like a fashion label. For example, they like, buy and do things they otherwise wouldn't purely on the basis of its origin. These people give the general public a very bad impression for the rest of us (I'm learning Japanese too) so I understand outsiders having scepticism of my intentions. The same doesn't happen to your Spanish and my French simply because these languages aren't known for the same idle worship.


My mom considers going on a Kpop celebrity's Instagram or just listening to Asian music Asian worship though, yet the same cannot be said for my younger sisters who listen to black dominated hip-hop music and are on famous people's Instagrams all the time. As for the language barrier, they think every Asian language is Chinese/and or Japanese, even though Korean, for example, is obviously different from Chinese and other Asian languages. It has a very distinct writing style. You're right. It is ignorance. At the same time, however, I think idiocy is part of the issue, I feel.


It looks like your first sentence fell apart but I think I get the gist of it. I wasn't saying ignorance in a negative way and "idiocy" is too far. Korean isn't obviously different from Chinese/Japanese to people who don't know them and it's perfectly understandable for most people to not have an interest in finding out the differences. The differences in Japanese/international Morse code, ASL/BSL (albeit the Rochester method), Sheikah, Daedric runes, Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mayan glyphs are all obvious to me but that doesn't make you an idiot until you show that you can do the same because it's perfectly fine and normal not to know.

[deactivated user]

    I guess it's not your family...i guess it is the prejudice of Jp/Kr (and so on)= anime, manga - stupid stuff.I tell you one episode that happened once and another example. It happened o with some of my old friends that laughed at me because there was in a shop a dvd of an anime; they started to look at me because once they got me with a picture of Hatsune Miku (a vocaloid, a software, if you don't what it is, go on wikipedia ;) ) as avatar in my cellphone...for this stupid reason they laughed at me every time they find something that is related to Japan because they thought i was a sort of nerd of anime....so idiots. Once i watched a video of a popular tv show in USA (i guess, i'm not sure) where they showed a performance of Hatsune Miku for the first time....because it was an hologram, people started to laugh because it's an hologram,a thing that cannot exist, so it is weird and people laughed....ok, everyone has a different opinions but...sincerely i don't see anything funny, because it is a software that allowed to create a song from zero with your own hands so...i think it is an awesome thing but since people see that is "abnormal" they start to say things like " it doesn't exist", "it is an anime" "it is a cartoon" so it is catalogated as "weird"....more or less the same thing happened with your family. "It is useless so why are you wasting your time in a language that has spoken only in Japan/Korean?" this is probably the thought they have your parents, which is stupid because knowing a language is always a useful thing, you discover a new way of thinking, a different culture, and maybe you'll find some new friends. They do this kind of thought just because is not popular like the usual languages like spanish, french and so on.I'm curious to see if they laugh at you if you chose chinese instead of korean and japanese.

    Don't listen to them and follow your passions. I know that is not easy but ignore them.I started to study portuguese, swedish and japanese but not for this i won't stop because for other seems "useless" "stupid" and so on....this is the kind of people i like to call ignorant, because they are immature to think in this way, learning a new language can open the mind and they should do it for sure.


    Yeah. I remember one time when my sister was looking through my phone, and she found a bunch of pictures of k-pop idols in there, and she was acting like she found the numbers of drug dealers on my phone.

    [deactivated user]

      Poor you DX.At least is between sisters, maybe the thing stayed only inside the walls of the house but with friends is worse DX.Now i think not once but twice before to speak with someone, especially if is a friend.

      My ex friends laughed at me because for them i am a weirdo because i had this "japanese" picture in my phone (how they would classify a picture in their little brains xD) but at the same time, i cannot stop thinking that they have japanese stuff too, but in their ignorance they think to be superior. They laugh for all things comes from Japan, but they have at their homes playstations (and it's japanese but since for them is an usual object, they are normal people) and we are surrended by lot of asiatic stuff nowadays (tv, cellphone, even dresses that most of the time comes from China) and they don't even know, but they laugh for a single picture that is not daily for them....seriously, we are surrounded by idiots -.-.


      I get the same thing too, with being half Ivorian and half American. People think its weird that I want to learn Russian, this is sooooooo relateble . Just remember that they have no input in what you can and can't learn. Its your brain and YOUR time. It's not like you learning Asian languages is going to affect them in any way, right? It has absolutely NOTHING to do with them. Keep on learning the languages you love. Don't stop just so you can please others.


      My parents are almost exactly like that.
      Then again, their reason is that they're both racist, especially towards Asians.


      This is 100% relatable! I am learning Korean as well. At first it was mainly because of kpop and dramas, but soon I learned to love the language and culture. I deal with this all the time honestly. I absolutely love learning about different languages and cultures especially if they are rich. Anyway, whenever I try to learn or tell them about what I am learning they always just kind of ignore and ridicule it. I mean one side of family is Spanish and so my mother speaks fluent spanish and they are always telling me, "why aren't you learning spanish, you have someone to actually talk with" "Korean will never help you unless you to korea" or sometimes "Really? why Korean you will never make money and spanish is so much more helpful." Like I understand they just want the best for me, but why can't i just learn it in peace. I won't learn a language if I have no motivation and I just feel like no one really understands my interests. I want to travel to Korea and eventually speak Korean, Vietnamese, Thai eventually and they always say why so many asian languages? Why not French or Russian? Like no, I want to learn these. I am so tired of judgement that I rarely tell anyone that Im learning it or what I'm learning. Like no I don't have an obsession with Asia I just love the languages and cultures, why is that so hard to understand?


      I mean I love Russian and all, but has your family compared the South Korean and Russian economies lately? Best of luck to you!


      -Sees me writing in Korean- "Are you writing Japanese?' Everyday....


      Firstly, congratulations on your love of language!

      Second, I'm sorry that your family seems to not appreciate your fervor. I personally am Korean, and I think that your family has only receive Asian stereotypes: Asian parents only care about grades, Asian kids are unsocial, Japanese people make weird things like anime, Kpop is pathetic.

      Your family has only been exposed to these opinions on Asians, and so they are worried that you might become like an 'Asian.'

      All I can say, in conclusion, is that you should continue your current path - my mom was a surprised when I started to learn German (she hated learning German), but I kept doing it.

      Keep up the good work - here's ten lingots!


      As an Asian myself learning foreign languages and getting bashed for it constantly by my peers, I can totally relate. Thank you for posting something like this. I guess it comes from the lack of cultural sensitivity or understanding due to the media. Thus, this makes them have no incentive or desire to learn. In fact, Asian cultures are just as diverse and beautiful historically- plus it's hard for a native speakers of English to learn from scratch since it doesn't have a Latin-based alphabet. However, keep doing what you're doing. Asia has a HUGE market for learning English, especially predominantly monolingual countries like Korea or Japan. Keep doing you honey :)


      My parents think learning Swahili is a waste of time. They don't think that way about Asian languages (In fact, my brother took Chinese for 3 years and they really want me to learn Japanese) but they are that way about African languages. My mom minored in Spanish so she wants me to learn that too. But I'm passionate about Swahili and if you're passionate about Asian languages, learn it! It is extremely useful!


      Be proud of what you are doing, it will make you a more open minded individual. It seem like your family has given up on challenging themselves with anything, that require a little dedication and time. Most people are like that.they rather pull you back from going ahead, that push themselves to keep up or pass you. I would not worry about them too much. They keep going because you react to them and it makes them to try to do it more. Ignore them, laugh at them and keep going. Ask them if there is a language they would be interested in giving a try. Maybe there is and then you can encourage them to keep going. They will stop eventually, and you still have the languages


      My mom told me yesterday that the only foreign language I need to know is English, after telling her that I want to learn Japanese. That was a very weird statement since when I grew up my family traveled a lot. In the 90's very few people in Eastern Europe knew English when we traveled there, so my parents had to speak German in order to communicate. Sure, the times have changed but the point is that it's still good and important to learn different languages. My native language is Swedish for the record.

      [deactivated user]

        Like when i see in some posts where some people do this kind of question : "why do you learn swedish? It is normal that there they speak english too, so why are you putting the effort to learn a language that is spoken only in Sweden?"Actually not because it is spoken in Finland too.

        BUT GEEZ, IF IT IRRITATES ME @-@! Because i love it ❤❤❤❤❤❤, i like the sound,the special letters that here are not used, the place, isn't it obvious?I don't care if i won't use it, i wanna try/learn something different and i'm tired to hear everytime "english is the main language, it is important blahblahblah, so you have to know it" yes, I know, but there is not only english other languages that worth our time.The same with japanese, chinese, korean and so on....don't watch us like we are aliens, it seems almost we are doing something " not legal" -.-.


        They Probably are just Jealous... And YOU should STAND up to them and tell them that FAMILY shouldn't make Fun of YOU and that To KEEP those comments to themselves, whether it's GOOD OR BAD they're BOTH comments. It wouldn't be fair if they said how GOOD you are But can't Say how BAD. Thank you for sharing this. REMEMBER, to be YOURSELF, Don't act like somebody who's NOT YOU. Ignore them if they keep on going, Because they're Rude , immature, probably selfish, And They Make fun of YOU, who's ACTUALLY LEARNING a LANGUAGE, and I Think that, They should be PROUD of YOU!! So just, finish what you Started. Thank you.


        perhaps you can take heart in this old adage. There are three phases of truth. Ridlcule Opposition Self-evident


        Maybe you can learn some Yoruba.


        I dislike the fact that everyone is learning the most learned languages. (On duolingo, I am only learning French to help with school)


        Oh my goodness same! I am learning Japanese and its sad say that I'm scared they'll say "Oh you wanna be Japanese now?" and make fun of me.

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